Hello Hockey Heads!
What a wild ride this season has been so far! Keith Tkachuk is already almost halfway to his 15th NHL season with at least twenty goals, and the talent-laden Philadelphia Flyers are the only team yet to win a game.
Things certainly seem strange on the ice right now, but there are some things you can count on. Evgeni Malkin leads the NHL in points, and Marty Brodeur recorded his 98th career shutout. He'll own almost every major goaltending record by the time he retires.
But Tkachuk, Malkin, and Brodeur are all taken in your league. Who are the players you can get for free that will help you now?
Brian Rolston (NJ—LW)
After coming back to New Jersey after stops in Colorado and Minnesota, Rolston is off to a slow start with only two points.
Last week he injured his foot crashing into the boards, but no serious damage was done to his foot. There is no timetable set for his return yet, but I cannot imagine he will be out for very long.
The former first-round pick has shifted back to center and was brought into New Jersey to jump start the offence. He gathered 59 points on the defencive-minded Minnesota Wild last year, and you can expect him to build on that with Brent Sutter’s Devils. If you want him, get him now while his stock is still low.
Loui Eriksson (DAL—LW)
After a rough week of being beaten by the Blues, the Avalanche, and the Devils, Dallas coach Dave Tippett decided to juggle the lines. He bumped star rookie Fabian Brunnstrom from the top line and replaced him with Eriksson. The results were glowing. Eriksson, Ribeiro, and Morrow combined for 10 points in Dallas’s 5-3 win over the New York Islanders.
Look for Tippett to keep this unit intact as long as Dallas keeps winning.
Eriksson is only owned in two percent of fantasy leagues right now, so if you’re in a deep league he’s worth a gamble.
Mike Van Ryn (TOR—D)
I struggle with recommending Mike Van Ryn because I’m a Leaf fan and I do not want to be a homer. For a team projected to be in the bottom of the league, the Leafs are surprisingly deep at defence, which makes it even harder for me to recommend Van Ryn. But let me explain.
The top powerplay unit in Toronto consists of Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina. However, that unit is simply not working. Both players have just a goal and an assist despite ample opportunity. Van Ryn has as many points as the two players combined.
But aside from looking at the statistics, watch Van Ryn play. After an injury-plagued season last year and a lackluster showing the year before, Van Ryn has returned to the level he played at between 2003 and 2005. He’s playing sound defensive hockey and his shot rivals that of his predecessor, Bryan McCabe.
Van Ryn is only owned in two percent of leagues as well, but if he stays on pace for a 50-point season, don’t expect him to be available for long.
Nikolai Khabibulin (CHI—G)
If I told you there was a starting goalie available in your league that is among the top five goalies in save percentage would you believe me?
The Bulin Wall has recorded a .931 save percentage during his four starts this year and he's only 30 percent owned. Teammate Cristobal Huet is looking rather average right now with his paltry .907.
Despite Khabibulin’s great stats, it’s not a question of if he will get traded; it’s a question of when. He is the fourth-highest paid goaltender in the league and Chicago needs the cap space to bring in a No. 2 centerman.
Chicago has openly been shopping him since training camp. Teams know that if they want him, they will have to make the first offer, because the Blackhawks will take anything they can get. Chicago has two NHL-capable goaltenders in Rockford. They’ll move Khabibulin to a team that will play him in a starting role at the first opportunity they can.
Patrice Bergeron (BOS—C)
I look at fantasy leagues and sometimes I shake my head. Phil Kessel is owned in 76 percent of leagues, but Patrice Bergeron is owned in less than half of leagues.
Kessel has six goals and one assist, while Bergeron has one goal and five assists. Who do you think is feeding Kessel the puck?
Bergeron was on his way to becoming an elite NHL player when his season was ended early by a concussion. He’s back on track now and should post another 70-point season. Try to find another 23-year-old player who already has two 70-point seasons under his belt on the free agent list. I bet you can’t.
If you would like to know Josh's opinion on a player he hasn't mentioned, he will respond to comments below within 24 hours.